Restaurant review: My Volt experience felt more like a fizzle

April 17, 2011
I was so excited.  Just like many others who’d watched Bryan Voltaggio on Bravo’s Top Chef, I’d been trying to get a reservation at his restaurant in Frederick, MD — Volt.  My friend and I had heard it was easier to get in for lunch.  On a whim, I checked Open Table on Friday.  Surprisingly, there was one lunch slot available for the next day.  Perfect! We could have a “destination lunch” (as my friend called it).  Yes, for me, Frederick is a destination since I rarely leave my neighborhood in DC much less DC entirely.  So, my day had come! My friend was so excited he didn’t even wear jeans, opting for a “smart casual” look composed of what I call “fancy pants” and a dress shirt.  When I got in the car, I felt a little under-dressed in my jeans and sweater.  Oh well, who cares. We were going to Volt!


Maybe it was because I had such high expectations that I walked out of Volt a little disappointed.  It was a good meal, but it wasn’t great.
Volt is housed in Houck Mansion in Frederick’s historic district.  The mansion was built in the 1890s and is really a great backdrop for the restaurant.  Inside, Volt’s intimate, all-white dining room is aesthetically pleasing.


For lunch, Volt offers two prix fixe options. The first option ($55) is composed of five of Volt’s signature dishes, including their goat cheese cake, which I will get to later.  The second option ($25) allows the diner to choose a first and second course plus dessert from a list of several options.   Neither my friend nor I were wild about all of the five dishes on the five course menu, so we opted for the three course option.


For our first courses, we chose the “Winter Garden” and the goat cheese ravioli.  The “Winter Garden” was a feast for the eyes but not the palate.  When the waiter placed it in front of me, my eyes lit up and I smiled.  There were so many colors — bright orange, green, fuchsia, white, brown, and various shades of red — and the presentation was whimsical.  The dish showcased several different types of beets served with chevre, delicate and thinly sliced radishes, petite carrots and something called “graham soil.”  Unfortunately, the dish just didn’t do much for me.  I could have done without the “graham soil,” which kind of tasted like ground coffee mixed with something else.  I’m not sure what it was.  I then tried my friend’s goat cheese ravioli.  The ravioli were tastier than my beets, but there really wasn’t much complexity or depth of flavor.  I thought, ok, maybe the second course will amp up the Volt-age . . . Get it?  Volt-age.  Come on, it’s funny, right?


For our second courses, we chose the pork tenderloin and the halibut.  The pork tenderloin was good.  It came with brussels sprouts, braised red cabbage, turnip greens and a fantastic sweet potato puree that I practically licked off the plate.   The halibut was a little disappointing.  The fish itself was perfectly cooked, flaky, and delicate — just like it should be.  I had such high hopes for the blue crab risotto that came with it, but I found it to be a bit bland.  On to dessert . . .


For dessert, we ordered the goat cheese cake and the “Textures of Chocolate.”  The latter showcased a wavy ribbon of chocolate ganache sprinkled with raw organic cocoa, accompanied by a scoop of chocolate ice cream and an off-the-hook chocolate caramel that I wish they had (a) given me more of; and (b) poured over my chocolate ganache.  I know, I’m so classy.  Anyway, the ganache itself was well-done but nothing to write home about.  The real star of our entire meal, however, was the goat cheese cake.  The spiced vanilla ice cream that came with the cake was equally tasty.  I wanted to order seconds and thirds and possibly fourths of that dessert. Fantastic.  So, in case you missed it, my suggestion — order this if/when you go to Volt!!!


Aside from the goat cheese cake and maybe the pork tenderloin, our dishes were one-note in terms of flavor.  They were good, but I thought they needed a bit more complexity.  On the other hand, I will say that one of Bryan Voltaggio’s gifts is his ability to make wonderful purees and sauces that accompany the dishes.  They were always flavorful and complex.  I just wish the other components of each of the dishes we tried were just as good.


Last but not least, the team of professionals that catered to us was great.  Impeccable service.


All in all, I’m glad I tried Volt.  I’m not sure it’s worth my leaving the District again (believe me, it’s a high threshold), but I will say I’m still a fan of Bryan V.  I loved him on Top Chef, and, if he ever opens a restaurant in DC, I would go and maybe I’d wear “fancy pants” or, more appropriately, a fancy dress.

Volt on Urbanspoon

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